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The Lincoln highway
2021
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Library Journal Review
Towles's (A Gentleman in Moscow) third rollicking historical novel begins on a very somber note: the year is 1954, and 18-year-old Nebraska farm boy Emmett Watson is being driven home by the warden of the reform school where he served time for accidently killing a boy who was bullying him. (The accident was "the ugly side of chance," the warden tells Emmett.) Having received an early release after his father died and the bank foreclosed on the family farm, Emmett, who trained as a carpenter before the accident, plans on leaving town ASAP and moving to a growing city where he can flip houses to support himself and his absolutely charming, precocious eight-year-old brother Billy. Emmett's well-laid plans go completely awry as Duchess and Woolly, two fellow students from the reform school, emerge from their hiding place in the warden's trunk. This sets the four boys off on a 10-day adventure worthy of inclusion in Billy's favorite book, Professor Abacus Abernathe's Compendium of Heroes, Adventures, and Other Intrepid Travelers. Joining the four adventurers on their cross-country coming-of-age journey are Sally, the plucky young neighbor of the Watsons (wonderfully voiced by Marin Ireland), and Ulysses, a homeless war veteran (voiced by the always amazing Dion Graham). Edoardo Ballerini masterfully portrays the four very different boys, smoothly juggling the shifting points of view. VERDICT Towles's entertaining and moving character-driven narrative explores the lovely, ugly, and heartbreaking sides of chance.--Beth Farrell
Publishers Weekly Review
Towles's magnificent comic road novel (after A Gentleman in Moscow) follows the rowdy escapades of four boys in the 1950s and doubles as an old-fashioned narrative about farms, families, and accidental friendships. In June 1954, 18-year-old Emmett Watson returns to his childhood farm in Morgen, Neb., from a juvenile detention camp. Emmett has been released early from his sentencing for fighting because his father has died and his homestead has been foreclosed. His precocious eight-year-old brother, Billy, greets him, anxious to light out for San Francisco in hopes of finding their mother, who abandoned them. Plans immediately go awry when two escaped inmates from Emmett's camp, Duchess and Woolly, appear in the Watsons' barn. Woolly says his grandfather has stashed $150,000 in the family's Adirondack Mountains cabin, which he offers to split evenly between the three older boys. But Duchess and Woolly take off with Emmett's Studebaker, leaving the brothers in pursuit as boxcar boys. On the long and winding railway journey, the brothers encounter characters like the scabrous Pastor John and an endearing WWII vet named Ulysses, and Billy's constant companion, a book titled Professor Abacus Abernathe's Compendium of Heroes, Adventures, and Other Intrepid Travelers, provides parallel story lines of epic events and heroic adventures. Woolly has a mind for stories, too, comparing his monotonous time in detention to that of Edmond Dantès in The Count of Monte Cristo and hoping eventually to experience a "one-of-a-kind kind of day." Towles is a supreme storyteller, and this one-of-a-kind kind of novel isn't to be missed. (Oct.)Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated the name of the Ulysses character.
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